STARTUP STAGE: SBC Travel launches crypto-friendly hotel booking platform

January 23, 2019

STARTUP STAGE: SBC Travel launches crypto-friendly hotel booking platform

SBC Travel is a new online travel agency that accepts cryptocurrency. It is launching with an inventory of 175,000 hotels and accommodation providers in more than 185 countries, primarily powered by Hotelbeds.

The company is led by Daryn Griggs, CEO of Swiss Bloc Capital, a Swiss holding company that owns Singapore-based SBC Travel. Bookings paid with cryptocurrency receive a more discounted rate than those booked with other forms of payment.

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

SBC Travel is a crypto-friendly online travel agency established to primarily service parent company Swiss Bloc Capital’s community of digital currency owners to offer deep discounts on travel‐related products and services. SBC Travel will also accept traditional payment methods such as credit cards and bank transfers as well alternate payment methods such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.

SBC Travel also offers a blockchain-powered rewards program, rewarding customers with Global Travel Token (GTX) cryptocurrency each time they book travel or shop at an affiliated partner. Other technology includes an online booking engine and mobile app. Technology to support our corporate clients (online booking tool, reconciliation platform and corporate mobile app) will be introduced in Q3 2019.

What inspired you to create this company?

SBC Travel parent company Swiss Bloc Capital launched a digital currency into the Asian market in May 2018 called the Global Travel Token (GTX). One of the benefits of the GTX was to have access to discounted travel. SBC Travel was started to initially service this requirement but has since evolved into being more than a closed user group travel agency by opening up the business to other crypto communities and the general public.

SBC Travel will complete the acquisition of land-based travel agency Dream Holidays Planner by the end of January 2019, which will provide SBC Travel access to more market segments.

Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.

  • Strengths: SBC Travel has a large and growing customer base of GTX owners, and with the acquisition of Dream Holidays Planner, another established loyal customer base will be available.
  • Weaknesses: SBC Travel currently offers hotel inventory to customers via a relationship with Hotelbeds. SBC Travel is also looking to establish direct relationships with hotels. However, other travel products such as airlines and rental cars are not available to be purchased on the site.
  • Opportunities: There is an opportunity to make the SBC Travel platform available to other communities, either by private label or co-branding. There is also an opportunity to add air and rental cars to the product offering. There is also an opportunity to add travel management company capability to the business to attract corporate clients.
  • Threats: Competition is always a threat and also regulators changing the way crypto can be used and accepted.

What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?

SBC Travel’s vision is to be the travel agent of choice for the crypto community and other closed user groups. The initial pain point being addressed is to allow GTX holders the ability to get value from their tokens by accessing very low-cost travel options.

There are also other large communities out there who are looking for a “value add” for members, and this is where SBC Travel’s private label or co-brand program can help establish the same benefit that GTX users have access to.

SBC Travel is unique in the fact that it accepts alternate forms of payment and allows all of the platforms and technology to be private labeled by other businesses who want to be seen as providing a travel service to the customers and members.

So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?

SBC Travel already has access to over 150,000 GTX owners, and as GTX adoption grows so will SBC Travel’s customer base. SBC Travel will also start offering service to corporate clients by mid-2019.

SBC Travel recently hired a very experienced digital marketing expert to promote SBC Travel to GTX members, other community groups and businesses by pay-per-click, SEO and social media. SBC Travel will also recruit corporate sales business development managers to focus on this segment.

Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.

We have established a need by providing a token that has strong benefits for travel. The addressable market is anyone holding cryptocurrency or who loves to travel.

How and when will you make money?

SBC Travel is projected to breakeven in Q1 2019. SBC Travel derives revenue from exchanging GTX and other non-fiat currencies to fiat as well as by earning fees on private label opportunities. The Dream Holidays Planner acquisition will contribute traditional travel agent revenue as well.

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?

The founding team has deep experience in hospitality, payments and financial markets, which will lead the business to success. SBC Travel's CEO has over 25 years of payments experience and recently was head of commercial for 52 hotels in Australia and New Zealand. SBC Travel's CTO has over 30 years experience with payments, rewards and hospitality technology.

What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

Regulatory and compliance has taken the longest time, however we are past that hurdle now.

Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact ‐ so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?

Because of the large established customer base, which continues to grow, as well as our focus on niche communities to promote our products and services.

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